Allnic D-5000 DHT D/A processor Page 2

The D-5000 also distinguished itself with the title track of PJ Harvey's Let England Shake (AIFF ripped from CD, Vagrant VR651). Compared with the Halide, the Allnic's frequency range stretched further in the direction of both extremes—although the increase in treble information was a mixed blessing with this selection, exposing the recording's top-end graininess—and the D-5000 presented the music with far greater force, especially in the lowest octaves. (The bass drum sounded much more menacing through the Allnic than the Halide.) Greater force—and dramatic nuance of every degree—was also heard through the Allnic with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony's recording of Beethoven's Symphony 7 (AIFF ripped from CD, JVC JMCXR-0006). Again, the difference was most audible in the lowest octaves, with double basses and kettledrums sounding more powerful than through the comparatively flat Halide.

In the Maze, the 2004 solo album by the young banjo virtuoso Noam Pikelny (AIFF ripped from CD, Compass 7 4386 2), was also well served. In particular, this well-made recording of all-acoustic music showed the Allnic's spatial performance at its best: Each of the five players was portrayed with convincing presence and physicality, and very good "stage" depth and scale—elements at which my Halide scarcely hints. The Allnic also excelled at portraying instrumental colors and textures; and the easy, powerful way in which the D-5000 traced the crescendo in Pikelny's "Speed Bump"—the full extent of which has escaped other processors I've used—was simply astonishing.

On to the Allnic's performance with native DSD files—where a .dsf vinyl drop of "Sabra Girl," from Nickel Creek's This Side (LP, Sugar Hill 15891394114), had exceptional musical flow, sounding altogether more compelling than I've heard through other processors. Mandolin note attacks were acceptably crisp, just bordering on soft, and the texture of the bowed double bass was similarly good-but-not-great. Yet the lead vocal was as present as could be, and the sound of the recording as a whole avoided dullness.


Perhaps it was the metallic twang of Jerry Douglas's resonator guitar, but the instrumental "Choctaw Hayride"—a vinyl drop from Alison Krauss and Union Station's New Favorite (LP, Rounder)—fared better, note attacks having a little more definition and click than with the Nickel Creek track. The first movement of Mahler's Symphony 1, performed by Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra (SACD/CD, Channel Classics CCS SA 33112), sounded no better than it had through the mildly distant-sounding PS Audio PerfectWave DirectStream converter—now as then, it seemed I could never get it loud enough to sound satisfyingly tactile and present—but the Allnic sounded more textured and up-front than the PerfectWave when playing "Lonesome Tears," from Beck's Sea Change (.dsf vinyl drop from LP, Geffen B0004372-01). That and an even more impactful bottom octave left me preferring the Allnic.

Hoping to get a handle on the Allnic's Conversion function, I turned to Buddy and Julie Miller's Written in Chalk (ripped from CD, New West NW6758)—a recording that's both reliably moving and cast in clear, impactful sound. Played with the D-5000 in its basic PCM mode, "Ellis County" sounded just about as good as I've heard it, with crisp but not too-crisp highs (handclaps, vocal plosives, and the rattle of steel strings on the fretboard were all just about perfect), and wonderful in-the-room presence. Switching to DSD mode had the undeniable but difficult-to-quantify effect of heightening my involvement with the music, of making me feel more physically and emotionally caught up in the song. But DSD playback also blunted, to a slight degree, some of this recording's sonic charms—including the moment, early in "Ellis County," when drummer Brady Blade flips his snare-tensioning lever just in time for the second downbeat. Use of the Conversion button had the added effect of decreasing output level by a few dB—as the D-5000's comprehensive owner's manual predicted would happen.

Still, with the Allnic in Conversion mode, the strings in the opening of Lovro von Matacic and the Czech Philharmonic's recording of Bruckner's Symphony 5 (CD, JVC JM-XR24203) retained much of their tension and tactile impact. And Mindru Katz's recording of Busoni's piano arrangement of J.S. Bach's organ chorale prelude "Nun komm der Heiden Heiland," from Mindru Katz Plays Bach (AIFF ripped from CD, Cembal d'amour CD 112), delivered the clearest accounting of the difference between the Allnic's PCM and DSD playback of the same CD-resolution file. DSD delivered almost comically greater momentum, forward-leaning flow, and overall musicality (footnote 1). At the same time, the PCM setting provided a more hi-fi sound—but not unpleasantly so, with more powerful bass, and a treble range that was realistically hard, as opposed to the softness of DSD.

The Conversion function was useful—and the ability to choose when and when not to use it was most welcome. The Allnic's Upsample function wasn't as impressive. On the first press of this front-panel button, the Allnic shifts not to a higher sampling rate, but into the Upsample mode itself. The next three presses take a 44.1/48 file into 88.2/96, 176.4/192, and 352.8/384 sampling-rate groups, while the fourth press deactivates Upsample mode and returns the user to 44.1/48. I found that simply entering Upsample mode changed the sound of the file being played, and not for the better: The midrange became more opaque (and slightly thicker, timbrally), and the trebles became slightly, almost imperceptibly coarser. Beyond that, I found—with some exceptions—that each successive rung of the upsampling ladder made the trebles in particular more hi-fi, less natural. The first time I tried it, the effect reminded me of the visual consequences of applying too high a level of "unsharp mask" in Adobe Photoshop: impressive, but unnatural—and, ultimately, fatiguing.


There were exceptions, but their occurrence seemed random. For example, while listening to Bob Dylan's "Queen Jane Approximately," from the 2010 mono reissue of Highway 61 Revisited (CD, Columbia), bumping up the file to 88.2/96 actually sounded less trebly than the native 44.1/48—subsequent to which, 176.4/192 mode sounded both more trebly and a little more right than with other 44.1kHz files upsampled to this level. Other recordings presented me with somewhat different combinations of unexpected effects, but in the end it seemed to me that the Upsample function wasn't worth the trouble—especially when the Allnic's native-sampling-rate PCM performance sounded so consistently musical and good.

This is the Fantasyland part of my job. Because most of my music collection is on LP, I'm unlikely to buy a digital source component that costs more than my $450 Halide—yet the stream of four- and five-figure converters continues, and continues to delight. It's like being able to pet a llama whenever I wish, without having to buy a petting zoo.

Yet my collection of music files remains comparatively small (footnote 2) for a reason: As has been noted by many, and expressed in a recent Facebook posting by my friend and colleague Steve Guttenberg, people play LPs for serious listening, but they play CDs when the goal is merely to "put on some music." So it goes in my home, where the hi-fi room is just around the corner from the dining room: When my wife asks me to put on some dinner music, I usually play digital music files instead of LPs—and not just because the latter require me to get up from the table every 17 minutes.

Then again, there was at least one instance during the Allnic converter's time in our home—I was again playing that Noam Pikelny album—when my efforts at dinnertime conversation were thwarted, simply because the music from the hi-fi in the other room was too compelling. Not quite a first, but vanishingly rare.

The Allnic D-5000 DHT is easily among the three or four finest digital processors I've tried: at least the equal of the superb Luxman DA-06, and perhaps even more consistently compelling. The Allnic is probably also the best made, and the one that offers the most flexibility in use—although I'm somewhat less enthusiastic on the matter of its value for money. I don't know what Waversa charges for their digital technology, but $11,900 for a single-box processor with no terribly expensive parts in sight seems steep to me.

Still, there are those among us—avid fans of DSD and direct-heated triodes chief among them—for whom nothing less than the Allnic D-5000 DHT will do. They have my understanding, and no small amount of my envy.

Footnote 1: I do take the apparently heretical view of using musicality to mean "ability to convey the fundamentals of music," rather than "warm" or "midrangey" or "liquid" or other such dickery. God save the English language from the hi-fi press.

Footnote 2: It's a sign of my modernity that there are far more music files on my hard drive than there are discs in my collection of 78s.

Allnic Audio
US distributor: Hammertone Audio
252 Magic Drive, Kelowna, British Columbia
V1V 1N2, Canada
(250) 862-9037

corrective_unconscious's picture

Would be happy to have an audio magazine examine it.

Unfortunately just looking at a serial number would not necessarily verify it would be the same guts as the unit "Stereophile" measured.

(I'm just teasing here - obviously, imo, that unit is now indisposed, as they say.)